July saw the start of the summer event of Marvel’s Ultimate Comics imprint ‘Divided We Fall’, the first cross over of the ‘new new’ Ultimate line, and Ultimate Comics Spider-Man provides us with part three of the story.
Before the issue kicks off, we get a recap of just how bad a kicking Earth has been getting in these books. Captain America has returned from his self imposed exile to find his country without true authority since Congress was turned into a smoking crater, leading to some states leaving the Union. Elsewhere, most of Europe has been obliterated, the Southeast Asian Republic has assembled a country’s worth of super soldiers who can also make use of Pym Particles (think tons of giant Captain Americas and you’re close), and what is left of America is under threat from not the brothers Zorn and Xorn and their twin cities of Tian. Mutants continue to be hunted and rounded up amid the discovery that the X-Gene was infact an engineered chemical, and the still wet behind the ears Spider-Man Miles Morales just witness the death of his uncle Aaron, also known as the villain Scorpion.
And that’s where we find ourselves at the start of the issue. Captain America has returned and upon finding out about the new Spider-Man is out there, he sets off to meet him, still carrying with him the guilt he feels over the first Spider-Man’s death.
Miles, still devastated by his loss, soon discovers that he is wanted for Scorpions murder. The authorities and the Daily Bugle have assumed that he caused the explosion killing his uncle, something which Miles himself ponders. While in school talking things over with confidante Ganke, he receives a phone call from an unknown (to us at least) source, who arranges to meet him. While on his way there, he sees a robbery in progress, and though reluctant to don the costume again, he decides to do the right thing and stop the would be robbers, led by a character with the goofiest villain name I’ve heard for a while, Batroc The Leaper.
Eventually he meets the caller, who we are led to believe is Captain America, but is in fact…well I’m not going to spoil it here. Its not a shocking twist but its still a nice suprise. And then someone else shows up questioning Miles’ right to wear the Spider-Man suit to see us out.
Firstly, I want to state that the artwork on USM is still absolutely wonderful. David Marquez’s artwork is both nicely detailed and just the right mix of realism and comic book fantasy, wonderfully complimented by Justin Ponsor’s vivid use of primary colours. There are a few great wordless panels scattered throughout the book with show Miles’ expressions, conveying his thoughts and feelings far more than any expository dialogue could, as emphasied with a great moment when Miles and Ganke exchanges glances regarding the demise of the Scorpion. Its a nice touch and a refreshing change from the often over saturated conversations we get in comics. My only criticism, though I feel its more an observation, is when a character approaches Ganke and Miles at school he is a dead ringer for Urkel from Family Matters. I found that confusing, but then I guess the whole ironic nerd look is in these days and this book has consistently shown itself to be culturally on point, so what do I know!
For the most part though, the story never quite gathers enough pace to draw the reader into the story. The first half of the book feels like an extended ‘in case you missed it’ page filler and even though we have a quick fight scene in the second half, its fairly inconsequential. Though its great to see Miles has inherited Peter’s nack of constantly cracking wise in order to distract his opponents, including a great line about how the first Spider-Man had genuine villains while he has to deal with a man calling himself The Leaper. While the dialogue is throughout sharp and witty (Brian Michael Bendis’ specialty), for me the story didn’t get going until the final two pages. I was genuinely interested in that scene and wished Bendis had dedicated a page or two more to it. There was a very nice moment where we got a hint of passing on the torch to Miles and then suddenly the issue was done with.
A slow, albeit well written issue, but the final scene shows promise for the rest of Ultimate Spider-Man‘s contributions to ‘Divided We Fall’.